Meet Dr. Peter Johnson, gynecologic oncologist
Fri, Aug 7, 2020
Trading a hard hat, neon vest and tool belt for scrubs and a stethoscope is a move that a young Peter Johnson, now a doctor and director of gynecologic oncology at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, never saw coming.
“I thought I would be in one of the trades, probably a carpenter or a plumber, something like that,” Johnson says. “I liked working with my hands.”
That all changed after Johnson received encouragement from his childhood family practice physician, Dr. Lynn Seward.
Johnson recalls the doctor fondly. “He said he knew I could become an incredible doctor.”
Johnson’s interest in gynecologic oncology began when he was in medical school, working in obstetrics and gynecology at University of Chicago Hospital.
Watching ovarian cancer surgery was an eye-opener, he says. “By the end of the experience I decided I would become a gynecologic oncologist.”
The opportunity to aid people during a health crisis and to do so using his hands was too appealing to let pass him by, he says, adding he hasn’t ever regretted his decision to pursue a career in gynecologic oncology.
“It puts together all of the things that I like: Counseling patients, talking to patients, patients that really, really want to do things to get better, the surgical challenge, the complex surgeries. I get sent a lot of patients that others can’t operate on, its beyond their skill level and their training level. I love being the person that can help these folks. Being a sub-specialist is really, really rewarding for me.”
The Berlin, Wisconsin, native has practiced medicine for almost 25 years. He was the first surgeon to perform robotic-assisted gynecologic cancer surgery in Wisconsin. Robotic-assisted surgery helps Johnson perform surgery with greater visualization and precision. It’s also beneficial to the patient experience.
“(It’s a) quicker recovery,” he says. “It’s five tiny incisions rather than one big up and down incision compared to a regular laparoscopy. It’s a lot more precise and there’s less pain afterward. We can do a lot of surgeries robotically that we couldn’t laparoscopically.”
Johnson’s main goal as a gynecologic oncologist is to relieve his cancer patients’ suffering.
“I want to do that using the latest information, techniques,” he says. “I’m all about getting better and better and better at what I do. So the surgery I’m performing today, is better than the surgery I performed a year ago, is better than the one I performed 10 years ago. I want to keep getting better and better at new techniques, new instruments and new ideas.”
Johnson’s desire to become the best possible surgeon, doctor and counselor includes continuously developing his mind, body and spirit.
He recently embarked on a two-month spiritual sabbatical to the Kopan Monastery, a formal Tibetan Buddhist retreat in Kathmandu, Nepal. There, Johnson practiced meditation, daily reflections and abided by Buddhist teachings.
The experience taught him ways to better connect with his patients, colleagues and staff, he says.
“I’ve always believed you have to first take care of yourself. Then you can take care of other people even better, so all of this knowledge, yes, I want to use this out there with the other folks,” he says.
Outside of work, he spends most of his free time building rustic furniture and preserving and tending to his 547-acre farm west of Berlin.
“I’m doing a lot of prairie restorations,” he says. “To see beautiful flowers out on the prairies and trees growing, and soil getting stronger and stronger every year – that’s really important to me.”
The farm offers a peaceful respite for Johnson. When he can’t be there physically, he’s goes there mentally.
“Hence the name of the farm, Serenus, which is the Latin origin of the word serene,” he says.
Whether it’s on his farm or in the operating room, Johnson says he’s driven to work hard to better the lives of others.
Dr. Peter Johnson is director of gynecologic oncology with Aurora BayCare Gynecologic Oncology. He sees patients in Green Bay and Neenah.
About Aurora BayCare
Aurora BayCare Medical Center is a 167-bed, full-service tertiary care hospital located at 2845 Greenbrier Road on Green Bay’s east side. It opened in September 2001 as a joint venture of Aurora Health Care and BayCare Clinic. Aurora BayCare is committed to creating a better way to provide high quality tertiary healthcare, the latest in medical technology and superior service.
About Aurora Health Care
Aurora Health Care is a not-for-profit Wisconsin-area health care provider and a national leader in efforts to improve health care quality. Aurora offers services at sites in more than 90 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Aurora is Wisconsin’s most comprehensive health care provider and the state’s largest private employer. Aurora serves more than 1.2 million patients every year via a comprehensive network of facilities, services and providers, including 15 hospitals, 159 clinics, 70 pharmacies and 30,000 amazing Caregivers. As evidenced by more than 400 active clinical trials, Aurora is dedicated to delivering innovations to provide the best possible care today, and to define the best care for tomorrow. Get helpful health and wellness information via the Aurora MyHealth blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter account and our Pinterest account.
About BayCare Clinic
BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.